Youth Climate Summit at the United Nations in New York, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Photo/Stuart Ramson for UN Foundation)

Happy Birthday, UN: What the United Nation’s 75th Anniversary Tells Us About the Future of International Relations and Multilateralism

On October 24, 1945 the San Francisco Treaty that established the United Nations entered into force. The United Nations, as we know it today, was officially born as a platform for collective security among its initial cohort of member states. Ever since, October 24 has been commemorated as “UN Day,” the UN’s birthday.

Last month, as world leaders gathered for their virtual UN General Assembly, they officially commemorated the UN’s 75th anniversary.    The centerpiece of this commemoration was a declaration from all 193 member states of the United Nations that reaffirms their commitment to international cooperation to advance peace and security, human rights and development.

In addition to this official commemoration among governments, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also released the results of a massive survey in which the UN asked people around the world to weigh in on their priorities for international cooperation and beyond. 

The 75th anniversary of the UN provides a good opportunity to reflect on the changing role of the United Nations and of multilateralism more broadly in international relations.

That this anniversary is happening in the middle of a pandemic in which a common disease is affecting every corner of the globe makes this and even more salient moment to discuss the role of the United Nations in international affairs today, and also how new forms of multi-lateral cooperation are complimenting the work of the UN.

On the line with me to discuss these questions and more is Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens. She is the President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation and previously served as a top diplomat at the United States Mission to the United Nations. We kick off discussing the significance of the UN 75 Declaration and the results of the massive global survey before having a broader conversation about the role of the United Nations in particular and multilateralism in general, in international relations today.


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Updated, October 24 2020 — “UN Day”